Album Review: Bad As Me – Tom Waits
After forty years in the business you could forgive an established songwriter such as Tom Waits for slowing down or not delivering the goods like he used to. But with Bad As Me, his first studio album since 2004’s Real Gone shows that the iconic storyteller with the iconic voice is still capable of setting many a musical fire from under us.
Starting off on a train headed towards “Chicago” and ending with a round of “Auld Lang Syn” on “New Years Eve”, Bad As Me takes us on a journey that only somebody like Waits could lead. Both the rough, rugged blues rock side and the shuffling, avant garde, jazz tinged sounds of his repertoire are exposed on this record. The big difference with this album is that its been tempered with more tenacity in terms of running time. The free flowing and lingering nature of his work has been swapped out for shorter musical snap shots, although this might not allow certain songs to develop and build further, each song is strong, sharp and with a quicker deliver more potent. As you could well imagine with any Tom Waits record the dynamics and levels to this thing are robust and fully fleshed out. The difference between tracks such as “Get Lost” with its rockabilly reminiscence and the earnest, tender and smokey sentiment of “Kiss Me” show how Waits utilises each end of the spectrum to great effect.
Outside the realm of the albums excellent musicality, Tom’s voice still has that fiery catharsis and weary, wounded understanding. His voice and in particular his delivery is still a huge catalyst to his sound. Its still very much a propellent as tracks like “Satisfied” and “Bad As Me” prove. His knack for storytelling is still on point too, a master of the understated and natural lyric Waits paints many a vivid picture here. “Last Leaf On The Tree” which comes across as a very personal observation on the longevity of his career is not only poignant but powerful too.
For long time fans Bad As Me is another fantastic addition to the discography but in my eyes it also serves as a great introduction for anyone who is discovering him for the first time. The long and short of it is that at 61 years of age Tom Waits shows no sign of slowing down, but when your making music of this quality why would you even consider it?